Merck & Company says it will pay $4.85 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits related to injuries sustained by people who use Vioxx, a popular painkiller that was pulled from the market three years ago because studies revealed that it increased the risk of stroke and heart attack.
There have been thousands of personal injury lawsuits filed in federal and state courts over the past few years. The settlement agreement is intended to resolve these disputes. The $4.85 billion will be placed in a fund for the tens of thousands of Vioxx victims who suffered heart attacks and strokes because they once used the prescription drug. The fund will only be established, however, if 85% of the plaintiffs agree with the way the claims will be resolved.
The agreement consolidates the claims but is not a class-action settlement.
Merck had said initially that it would fight every claim based on whether or not the plaintiff had used Vioxx for an extended period of time or whether other factors could have led to the stroke or heart attack. Of the different products liability and wrongful death lawsuits that have already gone to trial, some of them resulted in verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs while other juries rule din favor of Merck.
Vioxx is believed to have doubled the risks of cardiovascular problems in people who had used the drug for more than 18 months. Nearly 20 million people in the United States are estimated to have used Vioxx.
Vioxx belongs to a category of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Vioxx was used to decrease stiffness, pain, and inflammation in patients with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain forms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It was also used to alleviate migraines, acute pain in adults, and menstrual pain. Vioxx was been known to cause heart attacks, stroke, death, and other serious and not so serious side effects.
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